An interview with former Ozzy ax-man
By Steve PatrickPosted Nov 2, 2011
Most people know Zakk Wylde as the bullseye guitar-wielding Viking who played in Ozzy Osbourne’s band from 1987-2009. Wylde also fronts a band of his own, Black Label Society, which has been going strong since 1998. Thankfully, after recently receiving his walking papers from Osbourne, Wylde is more active than ever with BLS.
Currently, Wylde and the rest of Black Label Society are on tour with Judas Priest as part of their Epitaph Farewell Tour. Black Label Society is also supporting its most recent album “The Song Remains Not the Same,” that features different acoustic versions of songs from the band’s “Order of the Black” album alongside a selection of cover tunes.
Wylde took some time to talk about playing more mellow material, his early days in the music business and zombies:
UWeekly: On “The Song Remains Not the Same,” the band is returning to the acoustic style of softer albums like “Hangover Music” and your solo album “Book of Shadows.” Do you see this album as a natural progression?
With Black Label, when we’re doing the mellow stuff it’s just the same thing as “Book of Shadows” really. I mean, it’s just me doing the mellow stuff. As much as I love listening to “Black Dog,” I love listening to Zeppelin do “Going to California” or any of their other mellow stuff. When we’re just pounding out the heavy riffs, once that either gets old or if the riffs start sounding similar, it’s just like, “Dude, let’s take a break and start doing the mellow stuff for a bit.” Likewise with that, once that starts sounding a little boring and starts sounding the same … let’s get back to heavy stuff.
UW: Obviously, the album title is a Zeppelin reference, but how did you settle on that?
The whole thing is … the songs remain not the same because they’re not. It’s not even just like we’re doing acoustic re-workings of them. They’re completely revamped workings of the songs. I mean, the only things that are really still the same are the titles and the lyrics, you know what I mean? Some of the melodies have changed … the whole song’s not even the same. But that, and with the hopes as well that when people go to buy “The Song Remains the Same” they mess up and actually buy our record as well. Therefore, we’ll double the profits. So that’s just showing my marketing genius and my complete adorableness as well, aside from my musical prowess. laughs
UW: How did you pick the cover songs on the album?
I think it just depended on if we heard it on the radio that day. laughs It’s like me and you just driving up the road to Subway to get something and I hear on classic rock radio “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and I’m like, “There’s a song that’s f*cking amazing.” So when I get back to the house I learn it on piano, Google it up or whatever, or I’ll get it on iTunes and I’ll just learn it. Bottom line is, it’s always fun doing stuff by other artists, your favorite artists or your favorite bands and then Black Label-ize it.
UW: Have any of the original artists heard your cover versions of their songs?
Yeah and they said, “Don’t ever do it again.” laughs Actually, somebody yesterday told me, “So Zakk, were you actually scared taking on a song like ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters’?” And I said, “Actually, yes. I’m very well trained in Black Label-fied deadly venom kung-fu, but it’s been brought to my attention that Paul Simon is also a third degree black belt in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.” And I said, “The fear of running into him in a back alley or an Irish pub definitely terrifies me. I’ve been having night terrors.” laughs
UW: Has Ozzy heard your version of Sabbath’s “Junior’s Eyes”?
Yeah, Ozz heard it and he said, “That’s one of the reasons you’re not in the band anymore, now don’t call me anymore.” laughs “Zakk, after I heard this, listen buddy…this definitely solidifies the reason why I shouldn’t be playing with you anymore.” Yeah, Ozz heard it … I sent it to him like on Father’s Day and he’s just like, “Dude, that came out really cool man. It’s like a gospel version of it with the background vocals and everything like that.” And I was like, “Does that mean you dig it?” And he goes, “No, that doesn’t mean I dig it. I’m just saying it sounds like gospel. Now go away.” laughs
UW: I’ve always been curious, did you have any of the riffs on “No Rest for the Wicked” written prior to getting the gig with Ozzy?
No, what I wrote then was what I wrote when (I was) 19-20 years old. I didn’t have any of that lined up. The band that I was in before that, Zyris, the stuff that we ended up sounding like was like … you know that band Scandal with Patty Smyth? It was like … sings some of Scandal’s “Goodbye to You” I mean, that’s what we sounded like dude. It was not heavy metal at all. That was the crazy thing about all of us in that band. I’m thinking that I love Randy Rhoads and I love Sabbath and Zeppelin … all the guys in the band were into Zeppelin, Bad Company, Skynyrd and we sound as ball-less as … we made Bon Jovi look like a death metal band, dude. I mean, it was ridiculous. So horrendously bad it’s unbelievable. It just goes to show you … the songwriting … none of us would ever listen to any of this music ever. Why are we playing it? “Well, that’s how you get on the radio and that’s how you be successful.” So, we could do this music and then when we get signed and get a record deal, after our first record we can do what we want … sound like Sabbath or whatever? It doesn’t work like that, bro. It just goes to show how greedy, naïve and ridiculously stupid the whole thing is … thinking that this is the way things work.
UW: That had to have taken a lot of the “new guy” pressure off when you started writing some of those classic riffs for Ozzy …
Yeah, well “Miracle Man” was the first riff I wrote with Ozzy, that was the first one. Yeah, everything else that’s on there … “Tattooed Dancer” … everything like that. I’m playing music that I listen to, you know what I mean. Wow, what a novelty! I always tell kids, “If you’re in a position where you feel that you shouldn’t be doing something, then you shouldn’t be doing it.” Nobody forces you to do anything … you should do whatever the fck it is you want to do. Nobody ever told Led Zeppelin, “We’re going to get a producer for you … we’re going to get Mutt Lange to come in here and work on a new record.” They’d be like, “Jimmy Page produces the records and that’s the way it’s gonna be. You can fckin’ leave now. Leave.” No one’s going to tell Led Zeppelin “we need some singles,” know what I mean? We’re gonna make the records we want and if you like them, great. If you don’t, go f*ck yourself … or eat a bag of dicks, ‘cause we like it.
UW: What’s next for Black Label after this tour with Judas Priest?
Well, actually ‘cause we did the mellow thing, so basically that’s the precursor because we’re going to do an “un-blackened” DVD. You know, we did the two DVDs with the heavy show, so now we’re going to do the un-plugged DVD. So, we’re going to have some string sections in there, pedal steel guitars in the background, some guests … some of my rockstar buddies to sit in there and stuff like that. We’re setting that up while we’re doing the Priest thing.
UW: How’s the Priest tour going and have you toured much with them before?
Yeah, on the Ozzfest and sh*t like that. They’re killing it every night. All the guys are super cool, the (Thin) Lizzy guys, I’ve known some of those guys for years … and the Priest guys after meeting them on the Ozzfest. They’re just super cool guys, man.
UW: One of Black Label’s new songs is called “Parade of the Dead” … what would Zakk Wylde do if the zombie apocalypse actually happened?
I’d probably start drinking again … definitely. I mean, that would be a bright spot for me. laughs This way the warden couldn’t yell at me. I’d tell her “Well Barb, we are gonna die. I mean, I just wanna cop a buzz before we go down, you know what I mean?” She really couldn’t yell at me for that. Me and you straight to the Irish pub, pal. laughs
Black Label Society will be performing at the US Bank Arena in Cincinnati on Nov. 8 with Thin Lizzy & Judas Priest. “The Song Remains Not the Same” is available wherever records are sold. For more information, please visit www.blacklabelsociety.com.